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The Difference Between Keynote and Plenary Speakers

February 17, 2023

Keynote speakers and plenary speakers — what’s the difference?

Meetings and speakers are both very diverse in their purpose. Meetings can be…

On the other hand, speakers can be…

Once you have determined the purpose, theme, and structure of your meeting, it’s time to hire the perfect speakers for your event.

There are two types of speakers you may want to hire and retain for your event: keynote speakers and plenary speakers. Both add value to your meeting in different ways. Read on to learn about the difference between these two types of speakers.

What is a Keynote Speaker?

A keynote speaker’s main purpose is to drive home the meeting’s main idea or theme. In public speaking, the word “keynote” refers to a person who delivers a speech that sets out the central theme of a conference.

A keynote speaker is often selected to raise interest in an event and draw attendees to the program. Selecting a keynote speaker who is well-known for his or her expertise in a field, or who has wide name recognition due to other accomplishments, will create enthusiasm among prospective attendees for a meeting or conference. This speaker should be able to capture the essence of your meeting and be able to highlight it to your audience in a short period of time.

The keynote address may entail an opening keynote and closing keynote speaker. An opening keynote speaker is brought in to set the underlying tone and summarize the core message or most important revelation of the event. A closing keynote speaker will be engaged to end a conference on a high note and leave audiences with a sense of optimism. If an event is held over a longer period, it is not unusual to have a different keynote speaker for each day of the event.

What is a Plenary Speaker? 

A plenary speaker is a speaker who is often from within an organization of the same industry or a related industry, as opposed to a professional speaker or independent expert brought in to be a marquee keynote speaker.

A plenary session is a session of a conference in which all members of all parties attend. Such a session may include a broad range of content from fireside chats to panel discussions. It can take many forms and is not necessarily always the same. This is an opportunity for event organizers to be creative about the types of sessions that event attendees will experience.

Many meetings also have mini plenary sessions. These are often concurrent sessions that focus on issues important to an industry sector or a particular aspect of a practice applicable to all industries. Mini-plenary sessions are usually open to all registrants.

In many industries, the term keynote and plenary speaker are used interchangeably.

Cristina Mittermeier | Conservation Photographer
Cristina Mittermeier, Renowned Conservation Photographer speaking at Adobe MAX

How WWSG Can Help with Keynote & Plenary Speakers

Thanks to the large number of speakers WWSG represents, our team can help you select both keynote speakers and plenary speakers. Our team has experience helping with motivational speakers, health care speakers, political speakers, economy speakers, business speakers, educational speakers, arts and entertainment speakers, and much more. If you have a certain thought leader in mind but don’t see that person listed on our website, we can still connect with that person and facilitate an engagement.

At WWSG, we create comprehensive solutions for events, conferences, meetings, and more. Our ability to assist clients with speaker selection and management compliments our team’s unprecedented and unparalleled level of service in the global lecture industry. By providing a very intimate and consultative support service to organizations for booking speakers and their events, WWSG is truly dedicated to client success.

Contact Us for Help Selecting Top-Rated Speakers for Your Event.

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